What to read this month

I’m about to open up the discussion thread for Hurricane Girl on the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club facebook page but in case you don’t do facebook I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments. But first…have you see this month’s book pick?

It’s Florida Woman by Deb Rogers and it is a brilliant escape.

I devoured this modern Florida gothic novel in a sitting.  A culty, fast-paced page-turner with fascinating characters, chaos, bizarre intrigue.  Like a gender-bent Tiger King, but with monkeys.  

Want more details?

A gleefully dark and entertaining debut about one young woman’s sensational summer at a Floridian wildlife center for exotic monkeys

Jamie is a Florida Woman. She grew up on the beach, thrives in humidity, has weathered more hurricanes than she can count. And now, after going viral for an outrageous crime she never meant to commit in the first place, she has the requisite headline to her name. But when the chance comes for her to escape viral infamy and imminent jail time by taking a community service placement at Atlas, a shelter for rescued monkeys, it seems like just the fresh start Jamie needs to finally get her life back on track — until it’s not.

Something sinister stirs in the palmetto woods surrounding her cabin, and secrets lurk among the three beguiling women who run the shelter and affectionately take Jamie under their wing for the summer. She hears the distant screams of monkeys each night; the staff perform cryptic, lakeside sacrifices to honor Atlas; and the land, which has long been abandoned by citrus farmers and theme park developers alike, now proves to be dangerously untamed.

As Jamie ventures deeper into the offbeat world and rituals of Atlas, her summer is soon set to inspire an even stranger Florida headline than she ever could’ve imagined.

YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE IT.

Need more than one book to make it through the month?  Well, you are in luck because July is a cornucopia of delights.  Here are some of my very favorite July books:

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau  by Silvia Moreno- Garcia – A dreamy reimaging of the Island of Doctor Moreau set in 19th Century Mexico

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher – a small but atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.  SO GOOD, Y’ALL.

Acne by Laura Chinn – A fascinating memoir about family, happiness, identity, grief and finding yourself.  Also, there is Jell-O wrestling.

In Her Boots by K.J. Dell’Antonia – delightfully entertaining story about a ruse that goes awry and a chaotic homecoming that proves that confronting your past can sometimes set you free.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin – two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

Hawk Mountain by Conner Habib – An English teacher is gaslit by his charismatic high school bully in this tense story of deception, manipulation, and murder. 

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey – In spite of Vera’s long estrangement from her mother and in spite of the memories – Vera has come back to the home of a serial killer. 

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey – A fisherman sings to himself while waiting for his catch but attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected – Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.

Into the Mist by P.C. Cast – As men fall into the mist, the age of womankind begins.  (This is the first in an apocalyptical series in case you don’t like to start a series until it’s finished.)

Fire Season by Leyna Krow – Three scheming opportunists–a banker, a conman, and a woman with an extraordinary gift–whose lives collide in the wake of a devastating fire in the American West

Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy – Justin Chen described this book as “a snarky and gory peri-menopausal homage to Carrie” and I cannot improve on that summary.

Happy reading!  ~ Jenny

PS. It is never too late to join the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. We send the book right to your door like a lovely little monthly surprise. I think we could all use a nice surprise right about now.

9 thoughts on “What to read this month

Read comments below or add one.

  1. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS FOR HURRICANE GIRL:

    This book was very different from the normal sort of thing I pick, but it really stuck in my brain (no pun intended) and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s a very simple sort of book, small and to the point but it’s also really complex with the most unreliable narrator ever.

    The main character, Allison, is such a complicated character and half of the time I was screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING” as she continually made terrible choices and the other half of the time I was screaming “HELL YES, SUNSHINE”. Then I read it again and found myself angry at the things I liked before and cheering on what I hated before.

    The quick and dirty version is that a woman is attacked and she gets revenge and finds herself again and honestly I found that part very cathartic. But when you really look deeper it’s more complicated.

    First off, she makes every bad decision…following a stranger to a second location, driving with a head injury, going to a potential murderers’ house AND SLEEPING THERE with no one knowing where she was. But also, it’s not really fair that it’s not safe for a woman to follow a stranger to a second location, or that we have to be so polite and be afraid of what someone will do to us if we say no to them. I really struggled with the idea of blame and responsibility and self-recrimination and revenge because it’s presented in such a complex and grey sort of way.

    In some ways I felt sorry for the guy who assaulted her because his mental illness made him make bad choices. But at the same time I hated him because he’d made the decision not to take his meds even knowing that it made him dangerous. And the fact that in the end he says he’s on his meds again but still acts like she should belong to him makes me lose any compassion for him. There are plenty of bipolar people who don’t assault others. Mental illness does not equal violence. But at the same time, we’re seeing all this from the lens of a really unreliable narrator with a brain injury and unresolved trauma so you have to question all of it. Is he really dangerous and deserving of being vase-bashed? Is it karma? What does it mean that when she bashed him in the head I thought, “GOOD SHOT!” and then instantly felt bad because of the cycle of violence leading to more violence and the thought that this will probably end up with her in jail and no one actually any better?

    Lots of complicated questions and I don’t have the answers for them but I loved how it was explored…especially using the dry humor that made me sometimes laugh out loud in spite of myself. Combining that level of bleak and humor is so hard but I think the author nailed it.

    I had a few questions in the end…why all the repetition? The turkey sandwiches, the three men named Keith, the swimming pools, the Starbucks…perhaps the theme of how we continue to make bad decisions, and how hurt people hurt people, leading to more and more problems? How the cycle of violence continues?

    I felt badly for the doctor because he seems like a good person who loves her and is trying to help, although he’s just as complicated since he’s becoming involved with his patient who is on drugs and had a brain injury, which seems ethically questionable at best. In some ways it seems like a fairy tale but in others it has a very dark feeling.

    It seems nuts that Allison was always so mad that Dr. Yang saved her life without her consent, but I suspect that’s just because she’s really mad about so many other issues she had with not having control and he’s a safer person to explore that with. She doesn’t want to confront the past so it gets worse until it explodes. It sort of feels like consent, control and autonomy are at the root of this story, which feels very prescient today…and the author explores so many ways in which we feel like we are out of control…being in the hospital, watching someone we love die, natural disasters, assault, having to talk to the police even when you don’t want to, having a gun pointed at you.

    The hole in her skull never completely closed. Her trauma was unresolved. But she found a way to resolve it. Was it the right way? The wrong way? It was morally ambiguous in a way that made me wonder who was the hero…or if there was a hero? (In the end I was TEAM GINGER CATS.)

    We all have choices and we’re made up of the good ones and the bad ones. We’re all complicated and broken and the heroes and villains of our lives and of others. We are our unresolved trauma that hurts others or heals others. We are looking for control and autonomy and agency and the struggle for such a human right should be a given, rather than a constant struggle.

    Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    What did you think?

  2. I think all of the characters in this book are flawed in their own way, and you never really know who is OK and who is not. But also, I was contributing some of this to her head injury (which I’m sure is the case) until I realized she had these mannerisms and thought patterns BEFORE the vase incident. So now I believe she might be on the spectrum, based on her obsession with swimming, how she interacts with other people, with the world in general, her particular expectation of how things should be, and her decision making parameters.

  3. Jenny said,

    “Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    What did you think?”

    I think that your comments are *so much more interesting* than I found the book itself! I don’t know if I’m just too tired to think right now (and appreciate the offering) [Can you say 7 years (and counting) of toxic stress?!], or if it’s just not the right book for me (Now? Ever?).

    If you’re interested, this is the teaser with link to my recent review, including the acknowledgment that my opinion is in the minority:

    I guess “Tropical Depression Girl” wouldn’t attract many readers. Read my full review here: https://debbybrauer.org/#hurricane-girl

  4. I enjoyed this one up until the end, but when Allison was so mean to the bridesmaid and then “vased” her attacker, she lost me. Also, that she didn’t stand her ground with the neighbor. I don’t need to like a character to enjoy a book, but I do need to understand their motivations, and in that regard, the end seemed off to me. One can only assume that she’s going to end up in jail, where there are no swimming pools – so what good did that do?

  5. I was one of those “can’t read a new series until the entire series is done” people. A kindly bookseller patted me on the head and told me the only way a books series will be completed, especially for a new writer, is if enough people buy the books as they’re released in order to show to the publishers people want to read the entire series. I still struggle, though, and I do have never to be completed series that make me sad.

  6. I totally misread “the land, which has long been abandoned by citrus farmers and theme park developers alike…” and at first glance I thought it said “**circus** farmers.” Probably because it was the part of the description that was sounding spooking so of course I thought “abandoned” and “circus” fit well with spooky. I mean, *clowns,* right? And there was that whole one carnival/circus-ey season of American Horror Story. I think. Or did I just imagine that? Maybe it was its own show. Wait, circus and carnival are actually different things, right? Or maybe not? What about that Hugh Jackman movie – seemed like a circus to me but now that I think of it the troupe of characters were more carnival-ey. No wonder I am confused…

    ANYWAY, was getting really excited when I “read” the phrase “circus FARMERS” because I was thinking “wow, Jenny has coined some new concept here – I wonder what this is all about? Circus folk who go and farm some land in Florida during the off season?” Alas, the rest of the sentence did not provide enough contextual cues to give me a fuller picture of what “circus farmers” might be. So of course I had to re-read it and discovered it said *citrus* farmers. Wait, does this mean I have dyslexia? Or that it really *is* time to get these scratched up glasses replaced before they somehow manage to make my eyesight worse?

    At any rate, “circus farmers” totally sounds like a concept you might come up with Jenny. So, I think you should take it and run with it. There must be a book or a blog post in this somewhere. You can include this comment because I’m doing my best to write in my uncensored stream-of-thought style which I think is remarkably Jenny-like. You’re welcome.

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